Jody Hemphill Smith
Jody Hemphill Smith and her husband, Mark Paul Smith, have roots that run deep under the pavement of West Wayne Street. Hemphill-Smith was raised in Fort Wayne and met her husband while renting an apartment in a house just down the block from their current residence. They still own the house where their early seeds were sown, along with the architectural jewel that is known as the Castle Gallery.
Hemphill-Smith has a strong passion for her hometown, most affectionately the West Central neighborhood. She and her husband have owned and restored a total of four mammoth homes on West Wayne, each time receiving the ARCH award. She hopes to assist in the renovation of 1122 West Wayne, the home that went up in flames on December 23. She has already renamed the property, “Phoenix” and is confident it will rise from the ashes.
Most often identified as a painter, Hemphill Smith recognizes that she approaches home restoration in a similar way that she does an empty canvas. She says her work in restoration could be described as her “practicum in 3D design.” She connects to the homes she restores just as deeply as any artist connects to her work. While Hemphill Smith’s paintings are heavily collected, her masterpiece stands three stories high and houses work from artists all over the country.
Castle Gallery is both home to the Smiths and a destination art gallery. After serving the city from 1949 to 1983 as the Fort Wayne Art Museum, the house was divided into multiple apartments. In the process, sections of the house were sealed out of sight, only to be discovered years later by Jody and Mark as they worked to restore the architectural gem to its proper state. Three small kitchens, remnants of the old apartments, connect to the rest of the house by back hallways, doors and staircases – perfect tunnels to hide the behind-the-scenes scurrying that takes place during an event like a gallery opening.
Jody and Mark Paul opened the house as a gallery in 1995 with a Valentine’s Day show. On February 9, 2013 the gallery celebrated its 18th annual event with wine, chocolate, live music and fine art. Hemphill Smith described the event, which features bright colors and floral themes, as an opportunity to give people their “fix of color,” a craving that so many of us experience this time of year.
Hemphill Smith’s paintings certainly offer color. The majority of her works depict bits of nature, mostly flowers, but some vegetables and even a few animals. Her flowers are full of energy, as if dancing or exploding from the ground, celebrating new life and happily letting us know that we made it through yet another season of gloom. Her brush strokes show movement; her colors are bold. Hemphill Smith is not an artist of subtlety; she has a vibrant soul, and her paintings reflect her personal energy.
Hemphill Smith’s paintings, along with work by dozens of other artists, fill the walls of the nine-bedroom, nine-bath Castle. Pieces of art can be found in every corner of the house. Paintings fill hallways, bedrooms, stairways and offices. No space is off limits to art. Hemphill-Smith tells her artists, “You could be hanging across from the washer and dryer or you could be hanging on the front wall.”
While some artists might take offense to their work showing in a laundry room, there is no shame at the Castle. Robin Cheers – an Atlanta artist who handles local commissions, painting popular Fort Wayne locations such as the Oyster Bar – hangs across from the washer and dryer. Her work elevates the atmosphere for tackling mundane chores. Doing laundry surrounded by beautiful paintings can’t be all bad. (The laundry room is also home of “Jim Morrison Way,” the details of which you’ll have to learn on your own when you visit.)
The Castle is full of subtle surprises, and each hidden treasure is connected to a story. It’s up to each visitor to find clues that unfold to reveal quirky and often heartwarming stories. For example, the artist Carolyne Fehsenfeld, renowned instructor at the artist residency Ox Bow, painted a series of tiny pieces that currently hang at the end of a hallway on the second floor. The pieces are lovely, but a quick-browsing visitor could easily rush by without much thought. Pass them slowly, and you will see the ghostly shadow of the king of clubs or maybe the jack of spades hovering in the background, asleep behind thin layers of paint. The artist painted the miniature gems as she spent hours keeping company with her ailing parents in the hospital. The compact size of the cards (tiny canvases complete with a handy carrying case) attracted Fehsenfeld. Knowing the hours at the hospital would pass more enjoyably if she were painting, she brought a deck and a few tubes of paint and began creating a collection of unique works.
Another series of tiny works comes from a mother of young children who craves quiet, creative time. Rather than prop her feet up when her little ones head off for a snooze, Julie Waranch Fleshman paints mini-works in gouache. Her one nap-one painting method produces small designs with such fine detail that a person may wonder if the brush’s hairs could be counted on one hand.
Hemphill Smith’s paintings reflect stories that tell of her own connections with people. Her vegetable series was painted on the deck at her Lake Michigan home where she gathered five easels and five still lifes to create five large paintings. The vegetables Hemphill Smith studied weren’t plastic fakes or random grabs from the supermarket, but rather ones hand-grown and nurtured in a friend’s garden, then carefully chosen and harvested by the collector who commissioned the originals. The time and care given to grow, harvest, and arrange the produce are celebrated with Hemphill Smith’s choice of vibrant color. Her loose style reflects the energy contained inside of each pepper, eggplant, and tomato.
Hemphill Smith’s landscapes, still lifes, and interpretations of the Castle itself are in the hands of collectors all over the country. Art lovers fall head over heels for the stories and vibrancy Hemphill Smith brings to her work. One of her clients even purchased a piece specifically for his cat. The painting was hung at eye level, just above the floor, perfect placement for a feline friend.
When traveling, Hemphill Smith is often reminded of paintings sold to clients long ago. “When I see an old piece, it’s like revisiting an old friend.” Like most artists, Hemphill Smith feels a deep connection with her work. The artist’s spirit is spread across the canvas. When a person buys a piece of work they bring home a piece of that process.
Castle Gallery hosts five receptions each year to invite collectors to meet artists and in turn develop lasting relationships. A personal connection makes the work more meaningful to clients and helps foster a feeling of appreciation, not only for the work but also for the person who created it. Passionate art collectors don’t fill their homes with canvas, oil and pigment, but with parts of people who they know and genuinely care about.
Hemphill Smith and her staff work hard to maintain a constant flow of new work in and old work out of the Castle. Her goal is to keep the walls interesting by rotating pieces and hanging art in new combinations and different locations to create a unique experience each time a person visits.
If you choose to visit – and I highly recommend you do – move through the Castle slowly. It is easy to be overcome by the building’s regal personality, but if you allow your eye to wander, you will come to see the details. Stained glass windows, a coffee table made from the guts of a grand piano and inlaid floors show off the architecture like jewels around a woman’s neck. Small doorways lead to small hallways and back staircases. Wind your way through. There are three stories of detail and story to uncover. (Two tidbits to lookout for: flying pigs and a hidden Nancy Drew.) If you reach the rooftop deck, its view may set your mind wandering as you simmer and process all that was seen on the inside. While you’re up there, look down at the neighborhood filled with layers of history, impressive architecture and fabulous art. Hemphill Smith has left her influence all over the place with the homes she has renovated, the art she has created and the connections she has made with people.
The 18th Annual Valentine’s Show runs through March 16. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., or by appointment.
by Heather Miller
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Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
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Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
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The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102